Learning from everyday work? It sounds so simple, yet for most of us, most of the time, this simple idea requires us to do the total opposite of what we normally do. As daunting as that sounds, surprisingly, it’s not that difficult.
Hey, it’s Andrew, and this is Safety on Tap.
Since you’re listening in, you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way. Welcome to you, you’re in the right place. If this is your first time listening in, thanks for joining us and well done for trying something different to improve! And of course welcome back to all of you wonderful regular listeners.
This is the first interview for 2019, always exciting for me to get back into the groove of these amazingly insightful conversations, and I get really excited thinking about how much you can benefit from these in addition to my solo reflection episodes. I’ve got a great lineup of guests this year, we are planned out for a few months in fact.
My guest today is Dr Jop Havinga. As you’ll hear, Jop’s PhD is so fresh that he might as well have been wearing his funny gown and hat in this conversation!
As part of his research, Jop published a paper, the ideas from which form the focus for our conversation today.
The paper is called “Everyday Work Investigations for Safety’.
If you aren’t likely to read it, this is the gist of it: Jop was asked to look at safety improvements to do with blast crews on mine sites. Since mining involves getting huge amounts of stuff out of the ground, one of the ways that is done is to use explosives to break the ground apart. If mining wasn’t dangerous enough, these people blow things up for a living, in mines.
What you won’t hear in this episode is about the safety of blasting, or of mining.
The thing is, health and safety is obsessed with things going wrong. That’s important, but it is limiting in many ways. What Jop’s paper was about and what I wanted to focus on, because it will be of great benefit to you, is to learn what is involved in understanding every day work, when things mostly go right, why that is beneficial, and how you might start to change the way you think about, plan and lead health and safety to grow as a more effective leader, and improve health and safety along the way.
What a jam packed conversation! I hope you got something from it. I also think you will get even more from it if you download and read his paper to reinforce some of the concepts we discussed.
Now ideas that spread are the ones which shape change in the world, and I appreciate it when you share the podcast with your colleagues and your team, that is a gift that keeps giving. The podcast also spreads when people can find it, which they can do on the web at safetyontap.com or on iTunes by searching. And podcasts with reviews get found more easily. Reviews for me are more about feedback and less about ego, so I admit that I have a feed which tell me when there are reviews because I don’t check it like a crazed quasi instagram celeb. And it seems that I’ve missed a bunch of reviews last year and there are a few new ones. So a very big sorry, and big thanks to everyone who does a review. To do them justice, because they are helpful in their own right for you, and this episode is already really long, I will take more time in future episodes to share these.
Here are my three takeaways from that chat with Jop Havinga:
Takeaway #1: Flip the focus by understanding everyday work, not just anticipating and responding to things going wrong. This is pretty obvious, my cunning plan to encourage you to explore everyday work was pretty explicit from the outset. I recommend you start not by asking for permission from your boss, but rather finding an existing activity you can piggy-back off. An audit is a great one. And whilst I encourage you to just try it without permission, I do encourage you to explain really clearly what you are doing to the people you are seeking to understand. See how the conversation goes when you show empathy in trying to learn from their normal work, I think you’ll find some eager teachers.
Takeaway #2: Being a ninja like I’ve just suggested will help you experiment, but won’t be sustainable, nor make as big an impact without engagement leaders and safety people alike. So sketch out what a shift to balance everyone’s focus on everyday work might look like. What is the purpose? How will you do it? How will you resource it? How will you prioritise your focus? What will you do with what you discover? These are all questions you need to answer in your context, with your people. So why get started?
Takeaway #3: This one deserves it’s own takeaway because it’s a point worth emphasising. We spent a lot of time getting an understanding of the purpose of the everyday investigations Jop did. The paper takes us through the differences between normative, descriptive, and formative approaches and we discussed how they differ. The point is we stopped to ask, what’s it for? What are we trying to achieve with this? How often do we drive headlong into new initiatives, processes and practices, or continue old ones, without ever asking the question, what’s it for? I think that is a fundamental question we should be continually asking ourselves, our teams, and our internal customers. And don’t be surprised if you get very different answers from everyone.
Now is the time for you to take the next step. Two other episodes you would get great value from listening to are Episode 35 with John Green, when we explore that principle of things going right more than going wrong, and episode 92 which is aptly entitled, What’s It For?. Head over to safetyontap.com to get my handwritten reflection and your own reflection template for this episode, you can grab the transcript too, that’s all at safetyontap.com/ep103, and you can discover all our back catalogue of episodes, downloads and more there too.
To help you do that, you can be a guest on the podcast! I’m taking expressions of interest if you want to get an hour of free coaching with me, on a particular challenge or goal, which we will turn into a podcast. Or if you have an experience of success or failure you think would make a great case study for the Safety on Tap community to hear and benefit from, I’ll put your case study on the air. It’s really easy to get in touch if you are interested, just visit safetyontap.com/guest
Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way? Seeya!
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I’ll also send you the links to all the available back-catalogue of reflection templates and transcripts so you can access these at any time.